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The rule of thumb when shopping for seafood is fresh is best. But there's a time and place for canned fish, too. Canned seafood is an affordable, shelf-stable option for a quick meal when time or budget doesn't allow for cooking with fresh ingredients.
Canned salmon is available in several varieties and it's easy to use to create a variety of meals. You can mix it with mayo for an alternative to tuna salad for easy lunches, pan-fry salmon patties and burgers for dinner, flake some plain salmon on top of a green salad, add to pasta or grain bowls, and so much more.
Diane Morgan, a James Beard Award-winning author whose many cookbooks include two on salmon, offers up a myriad of ways to use good-quality canned salmon. If fresh salmon isn’t available, she suggests using canned in pot pies, chowders, risotto, or even as a taco filling. “It also works well, if not better, as salmon salad in a sandwich,” she says, “made like you would tuna fish salad with mayonnaise, hard-boiled eggs, and celery. Canned salmon is a safer choice than tuna because there is no concern about mercury in salmon.”
We've compiled this guide by taste-testing at home to help you decipher canned salmon labels and select the best salmon for your needs. Grab your grocery list and plan to add a few cans to your pantry on your next shopping trip.
Here, the best canned salmon.
Best Overall: Wild Planet Wild Sockeye Salmon, Skinless & Boneless
Fish caught sustainably
Not available in sizes larger than 6-ounces
Several species of salmon are available in cans. Of the two most popular varieties, sockeye and pink, sockeye has a more appealing orange-red color, so it’s our first choice, even though pink is less expensive.
Wild Planet catches sockeye salmon in Alaskan waters with methods that limit the bycatch of other species, which helps prevent overfishing. The company sources fish from small-scale fisheries that follow sustainable practices. The company is particularly transparent about its sourcing, mission, and explaining why they make the choices they do.
Fans of the brand like that this canned sockeye salmon is wild-caught and flavorful right out of the can. The 6-ounce cans with pop-top lids are easy to open and portioned for use in meals. It makes great salmon patties, chowders, and casseroles.
Wild Planet salmon and other canned seafood products are widely available at major grocery chains. You can also buy it in cases of 12, which helps bring the cost per can down.
Serving Size: 3 ounces | Protein: 17 grams | Sodium: 220 grams | Type: Sockeye | Origin: Alaska
Best Pouched: SeaBear Ready to Eat Wild Sockeye Salmon in Pouch, 3.5-Ounce
100 percent wild sockeye salmon
Great for camping or on the go
Pouch holds less volume than a can
Silver retort pouches are gaining in popularity for shipping shelf-stable cooked fish. They are lighter than cans, which make them convenient for emergency kits, hiking, or picnics where their portability and easy opening would be valuable. Unopened pouches last without refrigeration at least four years, according to the manufacturer. SeaBear offers bulk purchasing of pouches, too.
SeaBear has been operating in its own smokehouse and cannery in Anacortes, WA, since 1957. The sockeye is premium quality and 100 percent wild, but note that SeaBear buys fish from other sources in the Pacific Northwest than Alaska, likely Puget Sound near its facility.
It is packed without skin and bones, lightly flaked, and flavored with only a bit of sea salt. The fish is cooked in its own juices in the pouch, then vacuum-sealed. At 3.5 ounces, the pouches hold considerably less volume than a traditional can, which equates to roughly a single serving portion.
Serving Size: 3.5 ounces (one pouch) | Protein: 21 grams | Sodium: 490 grams | Type: Sockeye | Origin: Pacific Northwest
Best Skinless: Safe Catch Wild Pacific Pink Salmon, 5-Ounce
No salt or fillers added
Fresh flavor out of the can
Hearty, chunky texture
May be too bland for some
Safe Catch has no BPAs in the can material, no fillers or additives, no GMO-soy broth, and no precook processing.
According to the website, the fish are skinless and boneless, sustainably caught by MSC certified fisheries in Alaska, and canning is done at a facility in Thailand. After taste-testing, we give this canned salmon high marks for its fresh, high-quality flavor right out of the can, and we like that it comes in large chunks.
Serving Size: 2 ounces | Protein: 14 grams | Sodium: 50 grams | Type: Pink |Origin: Northern Pacific Ocean
Best with Bones/Skin: Pure Alaska Salmon Think Pink Wild Alaska Pink Salmon Traditional Pack, 7.5-Ounce, Pack of 12
100 percent wild-caught
Contains skin and bones
Great flavor and texture
Some may not like soft bones
Pure Alaska caught our attention because it processes fish within hours of catching it, and the traditional pink salmon has a fair price for its quality. The company won a Good Food Award in 2018 for its sustainable practices.
Pink salmon resembles albacore tuna in both texture and taste. It flakes into smaller pieces and cooks up tan or grey in color. Pure Alaska processes their pink salmon in the traditional manner: cut into steaks with bones and skin still on the pieces.
Bone-in canned salmon is an acquired taste, since the crumbled bones can add a bit of grittiness to the texture. Pure Alaska’s website, which tells the story of the fishing family who has owned the company for decades, encourages consumers to “be brave and embrace those skin and bones.”
Serving Size: 2.2 ounces | Protein: 12 grams | Sodium: 270 grams | Type: Pink | Origin: Alaska
Best Budget: Bumble Bee Pink Salmon, 14.75-Ounce
Skin and bones offer extra flavor
Unclear whether fish is packed in water or natural juices
Some may not like the texture of bone-in, skin-on fish
Bumble Bee offers larger cans of bone-in, skin-on wild Alaskan pink salmon at an affordable price, making it a good option for families and larger households with a grocery budget.
Although the quality is a step down from some of the premium seafood brands, this salmon still packs extra flavor since it contains the skin and bones. The salmon is packed in a considerable amount of liquid and it's unclear whether it's water or natural juices.
This brand edged out its bargain competition because the website outlines the mechanized canning process and the cans are coded with a Trace My Catch feature. However, using the code was tricky; the website says to use all the numbers, but we succeeded only when eliminating some numbers.
Our can listed “the Alaska Salmon fishery” as the source of the salmon. It was caught by a purse seiner fishing vessel, and then shipped to a cannery in Thailand after initial processing. Since the cannery itself is located in Thailand, a “Product of Thailand” label is on the can, even though the fish are caught in Alaska.
Serving Size: 2.2 ounces | Protein: 13 grams | Sodium: 270 grams | Type: Pink | Origin: Alaska
Best Salt- and Oil-Free: Loki Fish Co. Wild Pink Salmon Gourmet Natural-Pack, 6-Ounce
Flavorful and flaky
Difficult to find in stores
A family-owned operation with headquarters in the Seattle area, Loki has been in business since 1979. They catch wild pink salmon in Southeast Alaska with a small number of boats with gillnets, which allow for quick retrieval and the freshest fish.
The skinless and boneless, salt- and oil-free pink salmon wins points for its high quality and taste, which is flavorful enough not to miss the salt. It would be great in any convenient hot meal.
These cans are BPA-free, containing large pieces of flaky fish without much liquid. There's also harmless white “curd” atop the fish.
Serving Size: not listed | Protein: not listed | Sodium: not listed | Type: Pink |Origin: Alaska
Best Smoked: Taku Fisheries Smoked Sockeye Salmon, 6-Ounce
Great on its own or mixed into a spread
Available in bulk
Unclear whether can has pop top, may need opener
Based in Juneau, Taku Fisheries purchases 7 million pounds of wild Alaskan salmon each year, processing it in their smokehouse, cannery, and retail shop overlooking the Gastineau Channel. They process many kinds of Alaskan seafood, including canned chinook and coho salmon, as well as the more familiar sockeye and pink, and smoked versions of their canned salmon.
One of their most popular items, alder wood smoked sockeye salmon, can be purchased online in cans and jars. Cut in fillets and marinated in a secret blend of spices, the smoked salmon makes great spreads mixed with cream cheese or eaten directly from the can. The alder wood smoke deepens the reddish hue of the fish and enhances the savory flavor.
Serving Size: 2.2 ounces | Protein: 13 grams | Sodium: 410 grams | Type: Sockeye | Origin: Alaska
Best Heritage Sourcing: St. Jean’s Canned Wild Sockeye, 150-Gram
Clean, non-oily flavor
Easy-open tab lids
Not for those who like skin and bones in their salmon
The five Nuu-chah-nulth nations acquired majority ownership of St. Jean’s, a family-owned seafood company in Canada, in 2015. With a history of over 100 years, St. Jean’s operates from a facility in Nanaimo, British Columbia. These canned wild sockeye are perfect for consumers wanting to support fishing heritage and First Nations.
Fresh fish are skinned, deboned, chunked, and hand-packed with a bit of salt into BPA-free cans with easy-open tab lids, then cooked once in the can during the pressure canning process. Nothing else is added.
The salmon is harvested from sustainable sources in the Pacific Northwest and processed at the cannery and smokehouse in B.C. Customers love the clean, non-oily taste.
Serving Size: 1.9 ounces | Protein: 13 grams | Sodium: 150 grams | Type: Sockeye | Origin: Pacific Northwest
Our top choice is the Wild Planet Wild Sockeye Salmon (view at Amazon) because it packs a lot of clean flavor right out of the can. Plus, the company is transparent about its sustainable practices. If you want to take the flavor of wild sockeye salmon on the go, try the SeaBear Ready to Eat Wild Sockeye Salmon (view at Sea Bear).
What to Look for When Buying Canned Salmon
Wild-Caught vs. Farmed
Check the label to see whether the salmon is wild-caught or farmed. Wild Alaskan salmon is caught from the Alaskan salmon fishery, one of the most regulated, and sustainable fisheries in the world. The Alaskan salmon fishery is 100 percent wild-caught and certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, which determines guidelines for sustainability, so it’s always a good bet to choose a product that contains all Alaskan salmon.
Types of Salmon
The two types of wild salmon are pink and sockeye, or red, salmon. Pink salmon is the smallest species and is found in Arctic and Pacific waters.
Is canned salmon cooked?
Canned salmon is cooked in the can during processing. After cleaning and filleting the fresh fish, cannery workers pack raw pieces into each can, which is then sealed and processed in large steam pressure retorts at extremely high heat to kill any toxins.
What is the difference between red salmon and pink salmon?
Salmon comes in a beautiful array of colors from light pink to vivid orange-red, depending on the species. Red salmon usually refers to sockeye, which has a rich taste and a denser texture than other salmon species. Pink salmon (sometimes called humpback salmon due to its transformation during spawning) is the most plentiful and smallest of the Pacific salmon species, and is most often used in commercial canning. Its pink flesh turns greyish when cooked, and its mild flavor resembles tuna.
What can you do with canned salmon?
Use salmon as you would canned tuna in everything from sandwiches to salads. Salads get a big protein boost when you flake salmon on top. And for a great meatless dinner, try frying up salmon burgers bound together with a little mayo, breadcrumbs, and egg. You can get creative with it, too. Use it in pot pies, chowders, risotto, tacos, and more.
How long can canned salmon stay in the refrigerator?
The USDA recommends that low-acid foods like fish and meat are safe to store in the refrigerator up to four days. Though keeping salmon in a can in the fridge is perfectly safe, the flavor will improve if you store it in a glass container with an air-tight lid. As for the cans in the pantry, plan to discard them five years from the manufacturing date.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Food educator Jennifer Burns Bright teaches and writes about Pacific seafood. She packs up her own tuna and salmon on the Oregon Coast, so she knows what to look for in good canned fish. After much research, she ordered and personally taste-tested each of the options on the list (except for the St. Jeans Canned Wild Sockeye in Canada, which she wanted to include as a heritage sourcing option). For additional research, she interviewed Diane Morgan, a James Beard Award-winning author, who's written two cookbooks on salmon.
This roundup was updated by Sharon Lehman, a home cook and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who knows her way around grocery aisles. She specializes in small kitchen appliance testing and reviews and has written roundups on the best crackers and beef jerky for The Spruce Eats.